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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : What does eternal mean? » What does eternal mean?

What does eternal mean?

Don - August 18, 2005

I find the bloggernacle stimulating.  One person’s comment on someone else’s blog can trigger all sorts of thoughts and wonderings.  Jeffrey Giliam’s comment on Geoff’s post at New Cool Thing got me thinking about eternal things.

I’m not sure I can communicate exactly what I’m thinking – but here goes.

Can something that is eternal have a begining?  The first example that pops into my mind is this earth.  It was created, it will change and it will become a Celestial world from then on thru the eternities.  So as a Celestial world it is eternal.  Second example: God is an eternal God, but we know He wasn’t a God always.  He became a God and then will continue to be God thru the eternities.

The "cheap" easy answer is these were just changes in the eternal matter/intellegences/whatever.  Everything has always existed, it just goes thru organizational changes.  So everything is eternal.

Maybe eternal is just a word or concept we use to describe something in relationship to time that we really have no clue about.  Time that is.  Maybe eternal is used to help when we try to understand our time, but God’s time is different, and maybe time itself is different.  That being possible then what does eternal mean?


  1. Sorry Geoff, “New Cool Thang” not thing!

    Comment by don — August 18, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

  2. Sometimes we should be careful as well regarding our use of the word “eternal.” “Eternity” was not always used to mean “forever and ever without any end of any kind.” Instead, Eternity was a really long segment of time which did have a beginning and an end. Thus, there are “eternities” in the plural. Now whenever we say something is “eternal” I take that to mean, in my rather Nauvoo based theology, lasting for the rest of this “eternity” however long that is. This is how I interpret “eternal punishment” and God’s very name being “eternal” and the like.

    Thus, I don’t think that eternal is the best word to describe the uncreated, self-existent part of us. Of course this opens the door wide open for new interpretations of the passages which call intelligence, element and law “eternal.” Can they be created after all? I don’t think so, for this would ruin all the wonderful doctrines which derive from the idea of a God limited by the self-existence of elements and the like. Instead, I would interpret these usages of the word “eternal” to mean no beginning and no end at all.

    Having said that, however, I will now proceed to almost contradict myself by saying that such an interpretation might offer a nice way out of the idea of a totally non-reducible intelligence which Joseph seems to preach. I would have a hard time letting go of the idea that laws and elements are beginningless and endless, but I do not like the idea of a highly complex, uncreated and therefore non-reducible intelligence. Maybe “intelligence” as it refers to “us” is only eternal in the sense that it has always existed and always will during this eternity.

    This, however, raises the issue of spiritual mortality, for Joseph makes perfecty clear, and it make good sense to me as well, that if something is reducible to lesser parts, then it can be unmade. This would mean that our “eternal” intelligences, if they are reducible as I would like them to be, are mortal in the sense that they can be reduced or unmade.

    I need more time to think about this. Besides, I bet other people’s comments will help me ferret out some issues.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 18, 2005 @ 2:44 pm

  3. There’s a mathmatical allegory that might shed some light on the semantics of terms like “eternal” and “infinite”.

    In Geometry there are three one-dimensional forms. You’ve got a line, a ray, and a line segment.

    A line is defined by two points, but continues on and on in both directions “eternally”. It contains an “infinite” number of points, because it never stops and never starts.

    So, let’s limit that and set an endpoint. Then it becomes a ray. It has an endpoint, a “start”, and then goes on and on in the other direction for “eternity”. Surprisingly, since it goes on forever in the other direction, it also contains an “infinite” number of points, even though it has a “beginning”.

    Let’s limit it some more. Let’s give it two endpoints. It “starts” somewhere, and goes to another certain spot, and “ends”. OK, now we’ve choked it off completely, right? Wrong. It, too, has an “infinite” number of points, because no matter how close two points are on that line, you can always fit another one in between.

    My point? That even with limitiataions like “beginnings” and “ends” something can still be “infinite” or “eternal”. The problem is that our words are trying to describe concepts that are tough for our minds to wrap around in the first place.


    Comment by Mark Hansen — August 18, 2005 @ 2:57 pm

  4. Jeffrey,
    Interesting thoughts. I will sit back this round before I weigh in as I am far outmatched in this arena.

    Ditto on what I said to Jeffrey. I like your geometry analogies. That’s the only math class I enjoyed (because I could visualize the problem and the solution).

    Comment by Rusty — August 18, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

  5. I’ve quoted this Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry for “Time and Eternity” on about 1/2 a dozen blogs now, but I think it’s time to supply the full thing:

    “In Latter-day Saint understanding, time and eternity usually refer to the same reality. Eternity is time with an adjective: It is endless time. Eternity is not, as in Platonic and Neoplatonic thought, supratemporal or nontemporal.
    In religions where eternity is radically contrasted with time, time is seen as an illusion, or utterly subjective, or an ephemeral episode. God and the higher realities are held to be “beyond.” This is still the premise of much classical mysticism, Christian and non-Christian, as it is of absolutistic metaphysics. It is written into many Christian creeds.
    But scriptural passages that ascribe eternity to God do not say or imply that God is independent of, or outside of, or beyond time. Nor do they say, with Augustine, that God created time out of nothing. In context they stress that he is everlasting, that he is trustworthy, that his purposes do not fail.
    The view that time and eternity are utterly incompatible, utterly irreconcilable, has taxing consequences for theology. If God is supratemporal, for example, he could not have been directly related to the Creation because being out of time-and also beyond space and not subject to change-he could not enter this or any process. Theories of emanation were thus introduced to maintain God as static Being, and intermediaries were postulated as agents of creation, for example, intelligences, hosts, pleromas, etc.
    In LDS understanding, God was and is directly involved in creation. The creative act was a process (the book of Abraham speaks of creation “times” rather than of “days”). His influence on creation, then and now, is not seen as a violation of his transcendence or of his glory and dominion but a participative extension of them.
    The dogma of a supratemporal eternity led to another set of contradictions in postbiblical thought, the paradoxes of incarnation. The coming of Jesus Christ was recast within the assumptions of Greek metaphysics: God the universal became particular; God the nontemporal became temporal; God, superior to change, changed; God, who created time, now entered it. Most Christian traditions have embraced these paradoxes, but LDS thought has not. In LDS Christology, Jesus was in time before he entered mortality, is in time now, and will be forever.
    Whatever the subtleties of the ultimate nature of time, or of scientific postulates on the relativity of time, and of the modes of measuring time, several assurances are prominent features of LDS understanding:
    1. Time is a segment of eternity. One may distinguish eternities, long epochs of time, within eternity. Influenced by passages in the writings of Abraham and Enoch, some early LDS leaders speculated on the length of an eternity. One (W. W. Phelps) suggested that time “in our system” began two billion five hundred million years ago (T&S, Vol. 5, No. 24, p. 758). In any case, time itself had no beginning and will have no end.
    2. Time unfolds in one direction. It extends rather than repeats precisely. The view of eternal recurrence common in the Far East that leads, for example, to the pessimism of Schopenhauer, is rejected. Worlds and world systems may come and go, as civilizations may rise and fall, but history does not exactly repeat itself. Individual creative freedom modifies the outcomes.
    3. Eternity, as continuing time, is tensed: past, present, and future. God himself, eternal in identity, self-existent, and therefore without beginning or end, is nevertheless related to time. At his own supreme and unsurpassable level, he has a past, a present, and a future. Neither he nor his creations can return to or change the past. He has become what he is through eons of time gone by. He is now in relation to, and responsive to, his creations. Response implies time and change.
    4. In a cosmic sense, the reckoning of time is according to the rotations of the spheres. It is presumed that God, angels, men, and prophets reckon time differently (see abr. 3:1; D&C 130:4). There is some connection between time and space, for example, “one day to a cubit” (see Book of Abraham: Facsimiles From the Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 1).
    5. The eternal is sometimes contrasted to time as the permanent is contrasted to the transitory. “Every principle proceeding from God is eternal” (TPJS, p. 181). The phrase “for time and eternity” is equivalent to “now and forever.” LDS thought is uncommon in the Christian world in its affirmation that intelligence, truth, the “principles of element,” priesthood, law, covenants, and ordinances are eternal.
    6. Time is occasionally used in scripture as a synonym for mortality. In this sense, the time will come when “time shall be no longer” (D&C 84:100;D&C 88:110). The mortal probation will end. But another segment of measurable existence will follow, namely, the Millennium. Time and eternity also function as place names or situations as in such expressions as “not only here but in eternity,” or “the visions of eternity” (heaven). Eternal is also the name of God-”Endless and Eternal is my name”-hence, eternal life is God’s life, as it is also everlasting life (HC 1:136; cf. D&C 19:10-12; Moses 1:3;7:35).
    The thesis that God is beyond time has sometimes been introduced to account for God’s omniscience or foreknowledge. Only if God is somehow transtemporal, it is argued, can he view past, present, and future as “one eternal now.” This position is assumed by much postbiblical theology. But, again, this leads to contradiction: What will happen in the infinite future is now happening to God. But “now” and “happening” are temporal words that imply both duration and change. For Latter-day Saints, as for the Bible, God’s omniscience is “in time.” God anticipates the future. It is “present” before him, but it is still future. When the future occurs, it will occur for the first time to him as to his creatures. The traditional concept of “out-of-time” omniscience does not derive either from the Old or the New Testament but is borrowed from Greek philosophy.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 18, 2005 @ 3:21 pm

  6. Good question and thoughts. I’ve wondered the same about the phrase “one eternal round.” I had a mission companion who used that phrase to explain a lot of things I’m not sure were very valid.

    Comment by Bret — August 18, 2005 @ 6:20 pm

  7. I think the same thing of Geoff who follows Nibley’s example in this tendency.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 18, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

  8. Time passes or is measured by the count of a periodic event (Pendulum, atom vibration, etc.) – Time is movement.

    How can God NOT have time?

    Comment by Daylan Darby — August 18, 2005 @ 10:00 pm

  9. Ha! I’ll happily be paired with Nibley on a doctrinal opinion… He’s not a bad teammate to have on one’s doctrinal debate team!

    Comment by Geoff J — August 18, 2005 @ 10:01 pm

  10. I knew that if I simply put your name, you would have brought in Nibley or someone like him as an example of your behavior, so I figured that I’d beat you to the punch.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 19, 2005 @ 11:21 am

  11. I had a similar topic (well, sort of) on the pains of all men that died off after four comments. It’s nice to see your thread garnered more discussion.

    I am somewhat doubtful that eternal means without beginning or end. In the same way, I am a bit apprehensive of interpreting the scriptural use of ‘infinity’ literally.

    Comment by Kim Siever — August 20, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

  12. You dont need to be uncreated to be eternal, just look at a resurrected body. We mortals do not presently have a resurrected body, they arent sitting around waiting for us, yet we will end up with one, and it will be eternal. And, for the vast majority of humanity, our resurrected body will not be a re-created or updated or upgraded version of our mortal body, it will be a brand new resurected body that our spirit gets permanently connected to.

    The term “eternal” is commonly used in the Scruptures to simply mean “not temporal” or “not mortal, like you fallen men”, as in “not subject to the Fall, and therefore sin and death”. Injecting philosophical ideas of “uncreated” and the like usually, if not always, dont follow and are just a load of gobbledygook.

    With respect to our spirit bodies, I completely reject the idea that our “intelligence” is eternal, or uncreated, and has always existed. As though this “intelligence” is some kind of spiritual building block of a spirit body or something like that. Its not. The whole “intelligence is eternal=my spirit is uncreated” thing comes from misinterpreting D&C 93. Butchering the various versions of the KFD wont help any either.

    There is nothing in and of ourselves as individuals that is uncreated or eternal in the philosophical sense. We didnt used to exist as spirits, and now we do, we didnt used to exist as mortals, and now we do, and when we are resurrected then we’ll be resurrected people.

    Comment by Kurt — August 22, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  13. We should be careful with our language. To say that something will happen to exist in a certain form eternally is not at all the same as saying that it MUST exist in that form eternally. Nobody is really arguing about the first form, only the second. Whether a resurrected body happens to exist forever, immortally is beside the point. Joseph and Brigham argued very strongly against the second version though they obviously supported the first.

    I should also point out that this discussion is trying to figure out what, exactly, the nature of our eternal bodies will be. Appealing to the nature of our eternal bodies as evidence is circular at best.

    I agree that applying terms “uncreated” and “self-existent” to all usages of eternal without any restraint isn’t wise to say the least. Nevertheless, to call all such instances of such philosophical “gobbledygook” is falling into the exact same trap. There is nothing wrong with trying to define our terms, and if any term desperately needs a more refined definition it would be “eternal” and “spiritual”.

    “The whole “intelligence is eternal=my spirit is uncreated” thing comes from misinterpreting D&C 93. Butchering the various versions of the KFD wont help any either.”

    This is simply wrong. It comes from taking sec. 93, the Book of Abraham and the KFD out of their original context and uncritically applying modern definitions to past usages. Clearly Joseph called our spirits intelligences in the Book of Abraham. Clearly Joseph called our spirits uncreated in some way in the KFD. Clearly, I have no clue what sec. 93 is talking about.

    With regards to your last paragraph, however, is definitely where some philosophical “gobbledygook” can enter the conversation, though this need not be a bad thing. Most philosphers have made appeals to uncreated laws, elements and intelligences, not only because Joseph clearly taught them, but because they offer marvelous Mormon theodicies which are not available to other religious traditions. The reason why bad things happen, both natural and human evils, is because God didn’t create and is therefore not responsible for everything. The more we say God created, the more responsible He is for everything which which happens and this can be very uninspiring.

    I would also be curious to know how you read the phrase “co-eternal with God.” If God created everything about us then this would be nothing short of a flat out lie.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 22, 2005 @ 1:53 pm

  14. Jeffrey,

    No, this discussion started with Don asking what “eternal” means, not what the nature of an eternal body is. My comments addressed that only and not any other tangents. As such, an appeal to resurrected bodies is not circular, despite your assertion.

    The intersection of philosophical ideas of coeternal, uncreated, and so on and the Scriptural usage is precisely where you end up with gobbledygook.

    The Scriptural usage of the term “eternal” and of “intelligence” and “intelligences” is relatively clear and plain, the problem is when they are taken out of their context and injected with Western philosophy.

    In the PofGP Book of Abraham the term “intelligences” is used synonymously with spirits, and nothing else. The historical usage of that term is plain (see OED), and it is contextual.

    That is not the usage appearing in D&C 93, there “intelligence” is held up more akin to wisdom, as it is “the light of truth”, and not anything else like particles of eternal uncreated proto-spirit or any other such nonsense which is entirely absent from the Scriptural realm of thought.

    The problem with the KFD is the terminology differs between the various documented versions, so determining what Smith said and what he meant is problematic. As such, it is not clear to me that Smith ever said “co-eternal with God”, and if he did then it is even less clear to me that he meant that in the sense someone trained in Western philosophy would take it. If Smith said “co-eternal with God”, it seems likely that he would not require uncreatedness, in the modern Western philosophical view, as part and parcel to that. A spirit body that is created and indestructible from that point onwards is eternal, in the sense that it is not temporal, not subject to failure as is a mortal body. It is therefore “coeternal with God” and yet “created”.

    Comment by Kurt — August 22, 2005 @ 3:34 pm

  15. 1) I do concede that the original question raised by Don was “was is eternal” and I can see how you think that making such an appeal is useful. Thus I was wrong to a certain extent, but not in my main argument. It would seem to me that the eternal nature of our bodies is but an illustration, but not necessarily an instance of evidence, for your conclusion. Clearly the BoM passage which I’m sure you have in mind do say that the resurrected body will be “eternal” and undying in any way at all. However, Joseph and Brigham would later argue against this, and my views concerning revelation maintain that when later revelation contradicts prior revelation, it is the prior and not the later which goes by the board. Either way, the absolute worst thing we can do in such a situation is try to force “reconciliation” by trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. The BoM isn’t perfect, and neither was Joseph’s Nuavoo revelations. I simply consider the Nauvoo revelations to be better informed than the BoM ones.

    While I’m not sure about your interpretation of the BoA passage (I do think that his usage of the word intelligence is indicative of his thinkning at the time and therefore does have something to say on the subject, though rather indirectly), I tentatively do agree with your interpretation of sec. 93. I don’t find the interpretation you are criticizing very persuasive either, however, I’m not sure that I find you account very compelling either. I simply don’t see how “wisdom” can be uncreated and “act” at all. While these questions remain unanswered in my mind, I do agree that “intelligence” is probably closer to wisdom than spirit in this context. I think the confusion arises when people take Joseph’s later use of “intelligence” combined with his ideas concerning the self-existence of spirits and putting them in this foreign context that gives it such a forced interpretation.

    While the KFD sources do differ in many things, such as terminology, their meaning is pretty much uniform. There really is no reason to doubt that he was teaching that spirits are in some way beginningless. This was the whole point of his ring analogy; if something has a beginning then it has an end. It should also be pointed out that Joseph taught the uncreated nature of spirits on many occasions prior to the KFD:

    1) “The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal.” Aug. 8, 1839

    2) “‘Eternity means that which is without beginning or end. I believe that the soul is eternal; and had no beginning; it can have no end.’ Here he entered into some explanations, which were so brief that I could not perfectly comprehend him. But the idea seemed to be that the soul of man, the spirit, had existed from eternity in the bosom of Divinity; and so far as he was intelligible to me, must ultimately return from whence it came. He said very little of rewards and punishments; but one conclusion, from what he did say, was irresistible–he contended throughout, that everything which had a beginning must have an ending; and consequently if the punishment of man commenced in the next world, it must, according to his logic and belief have an end.” Feb. 5, 1840

    3) “That which has a beginning will surely have an end. Take a ring, it is without beginning or end; cut it for a beginning place, and at the same time you have an ending place… If the soul of man had a beginning it will surely have an end… The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal.” Jan. 5, 1841

    4) “the spirit or the intelligence of men are self Existent principles before the foundation this Earth–& quotes the Lords question to Job where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the Earth” Evidence that Job was in Existing somewhere at that time he says God is Good & all his acts is for the benefit of inferior intelligences– God saw that those intelligences had Not power to Defend themselves against those that had a tabernacle therefore the Lord Calls them together in Counsel & agrees to form them tabernacles so that he might Gender the Spirit & the tabernacle together so as to create sympathy for their fellowman–.” Mar. 28, 1841

    He also makes indirect reference to this doctrine in his Apr. 1, 1842 “Try the Spirits”. In this context it simply becomes unreasonable to suppose that Joseph meant anything other than “that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself: intelligence exists upon a self existent principle, it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it.”

    Thus, given this understanding about the “eternal” nature of both our spirit bodies and, by analogy, our physical bodies (both mortal and resurrected), we can see that Joseph’s Nauvoo revelation clearly contradicts the idea, supported by the BoM, that we are created and then will exist eternally forever. It’s either one or the other: either we always have and always will exist of necessity, or we were created and can be destroyed. Middle ground is possible, but in as much as we are created we can be destroyed (though this may never happen).

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 22, 2005 @ 5:05 pm

  16. Jeffrey,

    Comparing the Scriptures to the public or private speculations of Smith, Young, or whoever is something I am unwilling to do. Smith, Young, or whoever can incorrectly interpret without it having any impact whatsoever on the veracity of the Scriptures. So, comparing the two things and trying to reconcile them, by forcing a square peg into a round hole, as you put it, is unnecessary as far as I am concerned. If Smith, Young, or whoever held a view contrary to the Scriptures as we understand them, that does not mean we have to reconcile, it means we reject the speculative view. SMith, Young, and whoever will make mistakes in speculative doctrine, and both Smith and Young admitted as much, and that has no bearing whatseover on the Scriptures.

    With respect to your quotes:

    1) this quote is taken from a discourse on the Priesthood (HC vol 3 page 387), and not a discourse on the nature of physical or spiritual matter or the Creation or createdness or uncreatedness of anything in specific. The discussion is over whether or not things pertaining to the Priesthood are earthly (temporal) or heavenly (eternal). Smith says the Priesthood is eternal, and he also says “earth, water, etc. had their existence, in an elementary state, from eternity. Clearly Smith’s comments are being taken out of context if you are trying to use them to say he is commenting on the uncreatedness, in the philosophical sense, of the spirit of man. What he meant by the comment is ambiguous, outside of that which is determined by context.

    2) this quote is taken from a poorly documented rambling discourse (HC vol 4, chap 4), which appears to have been focused on the nature of punishment for sins, not a discourse on uncreatedness or the nature of the human spirit. Smith’s point appears to be more aimed at talking about the filial relationship between God and human spirits and that being a means of redemption and judgement, which judgement is temporary. What he meant by the comment is ambiguous, outside of that which is determined by context.

    3) what is the source of this quote? I am having difficulty finding it. What I found similar to it was this, from TPJS, page 181:

    “The elements are eternal. That which has a beginning will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beginning or end-cut it for a beginning place and at the same time you have an ending place.
    “A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil. The sun has no beginning or end; the rays which proceed from himself have no bounds, consequently are eternal.
    “So it is with God. If the soul of man had a beginning it will surely have an end. In the translation ‘without form and void’ it should be read, empty and desolate. The word created should be formed, or organized.”

    Now, make sense of “eternal” in Smith’s usage when he says the sun is eternal and its rays are eternal. It only makes sense when speaking of eternal=heavenly and temporal=earthly.

    4) what is the source of this quote? Regardless, all it can be used to argue for is pre-existence.

    No, Joseph’s Nauvoo revelation clearly doesnt contradict anything except your perceptions of what you think he believed. Its not either one or the other as you present it. You have created a straw man and are trying to force a contradiction.

    Comment by Kurt — August 23, 2005 @ 7:37 am

  17. Kurt,

    I can respect your move to cling to scripture and reject anything which doesn’t agree as speculation, but I think that this only serves to illustrate a big difference between us. I don’t think that scripture is the absolute truth which modern revelation must bow before. I think that forcing revelation to agree with scripture is a case of clinging too much to dead prophets while rejecting modern ones. Since scripture is revelation, holding revelation to the standard of scripture seems to be getting the cart before the horse in my opinion. I also think that calling Joseph’s repeated statements, both in public and private over an extended amount of time, statments based on the Book of Abraham, “specualtions” isn’t entirely accurate to put it mildly.

    I also think that you are trying a little too hard to fit those quotes into your overall model of revelation.

    1) After just speaking about the spirit of man not being created, he says “anything which is created cannot be eternal.” How much clearer can it be?

    2) He contended throughout an entire discourse on this matter and repeated it enough so that it was the only thing that was really remembered from it.

    3) It is rather plain what the ring analogy was supposed to accomplish. BTW, all my sources are the Book of Abraham Project.

    4) You simply ignored the “self existence” part of the quote, which supplied the context for the rest of the statement.

    I think the most any honest person would read those quotes very different than you have. Straw man… indeed.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 23, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  18. Jeffrey,

    How is it not a staw man when you create a contradiction by interpreting ambiguous passages from speculative non-revelatory writings in such a manner that they end up contradictory?

    I gave you a passage, the one about the sun being eternal, which plainly shows that what Smith was thinking when he says “eternal” and what you think he was thinking are clearly at odds. Would you care to address that quotation please? No? OK.

    Not everything Smith or Young said or privately speculated on falls into the classification of “revelation”. Are you suggesting that the KFD is “revelation”? Are you suggesting that anything in JofD is “revelation”? Is anything in the HofC a “revelation”? You are the one that has to elevate ever comment of Smith to the classification of “revelation” in order to create a contradiction. Isnt it obvious that Smith’s comments at a funeral arent of the same caliber and quality as that of a revelation had from the mouth of the Lord? It seems blindingly obvious to me.

    1) How can it be any plainer that you dont understand what Smith meant by those words? You are imposing a modern philosophical reading on a text that does not support such a reading. Isnt it absolutely clear Smith’s intentions and ideas differ from your modern philosophical ones when he says things like “The sun has no beginning or end; the rays which proceed from himself have no bounds, consequently are eternal.”

    2) Which proves nothing on your reading of Smith’s intentions.

    3) No, it is not plain what Smith meant by the ring analogy. What is plain is that you think you know what he meant by it. Smith is not necessarily implying uncreatedness in the philosophical sense with that analogy, that is something you are injecting into it. Doesnt the simply fact that the sun analogy immediately follows this ring analogy show that youre reading is wrong? Also, note the serious discrepencies between the Clayton account and the McIntyre account, especially look at the [earth formed from other planets] parallel accounts, theyre different enough to result in two completely different conclusions as to how/when the preceding planets were broken up. Doesnt that tell you to be circumspect on using these sources? BTW, provide the sources then, how hard is that?

    4) No, I didnt. Its plain the author/speaker is talking about pre-existence of the spirit prior to the Creation, per the Job proof text, and the editors of the BOAP project agree with that reading as the footnote to that piece you quoted from states “By self- existent he seems to mean necessary existence.” In other words, pre-existence and not the sense of uncreatedness you take it to mean.

    Jeffrey, you are injecting your ideas and notions of Western Philosophy into men who never entertained those ideas, and in doing so creating a contradiction where one simply doesnt exist. And, you have to elevate all sorts of things to the level of “revelation” and set them at par with Scriptures, which you only too easily dispose of as “dead”.
    This is the fundamental difference between us, Jeffrey.

    When you create a contradiction by reading meaning into words that clearly do not mean what you say they do using questionable sources, then that indeed is a straw man. Lousy sources and poor exegesis result in weak arguments.

    Comment by Kurt — August 23, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

  19. “How is it not a staw man when you create a contradiction by interpreting ambiguous passages from speculative non-revelatory writings in such a manner that they end up contradictory?”

    Because those passages aren’t ambiguous, nor is there any evidence which suggests that Joseph was speculating, and he did claim revelation for these views: “I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life, that are given to me, I know you taste it and I know you believe it. You say honey is sweet and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life; I know it is good, and when I tell you of these things, that were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive it as sweet, and I rejoice more and more.” One can also mention that all these doctrines are based upon Joseph’s reading of the BoA, which is also revelation. Thats how.

    Joseph certainly considered his KFD to contain lots of revelation and I see no reason to doubt him. Have I ever said that anything in the HoC or JoD is revelation? I certainly haven’t. But when some prophet claims that a teaching was given to them by revelation, the burden of proof is on you to show how he was wrong, not on me. Now tell me, which should be considered as a higher revelation: a statement spoken by some prophet millennia ago and for which he claimed no revelation at the time and was hopefully written down correctly, passed on correctly and translated correctly or a statement which is confirmed by many source over extended periods of time not even 200 years ago, which was never translated or passed down and which the prophet did claim revelation for? Just because the BoM was translated by revelation doesn’t mean that every statement in it was given by revelation. This seems blindingly obvious to me.

    1) Wrong. I understand them just fine with or without philosophy. I think you are the only one who refuses to acknowledge the obvious meaning of those passages I sighted. Its true, I have no clue what he meant by his comments regarding the Sun (I personally think that he possibly believed the Sun to be uncreated in some sense as well) but I am quite sure what he meant regarding the spirit. Just because he mentions the sun in one passage doesn’t somehow disqualify all the other ones.

    2) C’mon. Now you are just being difficult. All these different people misunderstood Smith in the exact same way on all these occasions? C’mon.

    3) I did provide the sources. Go the the Book of Abraham Project online and look up the dates I provided. It’s not that hard. Your misinterpretation of the ring analogy, which basically amounts to a refusal to interpret it at all, is extremely forced. He was very clear what he meant: if something can have a beginning, it can have an end. I don’t see anything ambiguous about that.

    4) Exactly. You just refuted yourself. Self-existence is necessary existence, meaning that is must exist of necessity. Of course its talking about the pre-existence. What else would he talk about with regards to our uncreated spirits?

    I agree that our difference surrounds our ideas concerning the nature of scripture and revelation, but it seems clear to me that it is you who is simply refusing to take these many sources at face value and give them the interpretation they deserve out of an unwarranted allegiance to a false understanding of scripture.

    If anybody else is still reading this thread can I get an “amen” of sorts? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 23, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

  20. Just to clear up what I meant at the end, I don’t expect anybody to agree with my definitions of revelation and scripture, only my interpretation of the sources I provided in the comment above.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 23, 2005 @ 2:05 pm

  21. Jeffrey,

    You are taking crazy pills when you elevate the KFD to the level of revelation on par with the Scriptures, expecially when the textual problems with it are well known and its cleary not the word of the Lord. D&C 93 = well documented first person quotation of the Lord. KFD isnt. Got it?

    1) OK, so if you have no idea what the sun analogy means, which immediately follows the ring analogy in Clayton’s account, doesnt it cast some doubt in your own mind as to what the ring analogy is supposed to mean? No, of course not, youre still absolutely sure youre right. OK, whatever.

    2) No, I am not being difficult. The writers documenting a statement do nothing at all to qualify your interpretation of that statement.

    3) How is it forced when in the very next statement he says the sun is eternal and light coming from the sun is also eternal, which you admit you do not understand? I am not refusing to interpret the statement, I am refusing to agree with your interpretation of the statement in light of the context, which you are ignoring. You never even asked me what my interpretation of the ring analogy was.

    4) No, I didnt just refute myself. Self-existence and necessary existence are not the same thing, not even close. Self-existence in the philosophical sense implies uncreatedness, as in existence in and of itself, necessary existence doesnt, it implies pre-existence to some event, as in it necessarily existed at some point. If they are the same thing, as you assert, then why in the world did the BOAP editors insert an explanatory comment? Because of their love of stating the emminently obvious?

    How am I refusing to take these sources at face value? D&C 93 is the Lord speaking through Smith, the KFD is a problematical text owing to its varying sources which require harmonization on the very points we are discussing. Two completely different things, Jeffrey. Youre the one that is ignoring the facts in an effort to promote your views. Youre the one building straw men out of questionable sources to create contradictions. I’m not doing that, Jeffrey.

    Comment by Kurt — August 23, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

  22. Again, our differences in views concerning the nature of revelation and scripture are shining through. You belief, I assume, that revelation will never contradict or correct past revelation, but will instead always be in perfect harmony with each other. I don’t buy this for a second, seeing numerous instances of such contradiction in our own scriptures. The KFD isn’t perfectly preserved, but it is well enough to establish that Joseph considered it a revelation that the spirit of man in uncreated and self–existent. To deny this is absurd. Yes, it contradicts past revelation which is thoroughly documented, but who cares? This doesn’t somehow bring the KFD into any more or less doubt. Thus, I’m not saying that the KFD is as well documented as sec. 93 (I don’t have any opinion on that matter.). I am saying that the doctrine of the uncreated nature of man’s spirit is documented well enough to establish its contradictory nature with past interpretations of revelation. (Sec. 93 doesn’t even teach that our spirits were created as far as I can tell.) I see no straw man in this. I think your interpretation of those passages is extraordinarily forced by your not believing that revelations COULD contradict one another.

    I don’t care which revelation is more accept “officially”. Officials, in my experience, are more concerned with preserving the appearance of harmony, thereby promoting faith, than with giving the full truth of the matter. Personally, I only care about which revelation was more true, and I don’t think that the prior revelation would contain greater light and knowledge than the later revelation. I don’t think that you believe any of this, and THIS is where the difference really lies between us. Your forced interpretation of those passages is entirely based upon this disagreement if I’m not mistaken.

    1) True.
    2) False.
    3) What is your interpretation then. I would really like to hear the “non-philosophical” and more true interpretation of what all these statements mean. I shouldn’t have had to ask for this.
    4) The BOAP editors take this passage as a example of man’s uncreated nature in other places. Perhaps your interpretation of the BOAP’s is wrong, for Joseph’s statement is quite clear.

    What part of sec. 93 are you talking about? The only harmonization needed in these parts of the KFD is trying to square Joseph’s obvious belief in an uncreated spirit with our current doctrine of spirit birth. A lot of harmonization is needed here. I should also mention that the only reason why I have “these” veiws is because of the facts. Nobody sets out to look for ways in which the beliefs they grew up with are wrong. Instead, they seek confirmation. Which one of us is doing that? Hmmm.

    To be honest, I don’t think anybody has made any straw men here. Maybe we can drop the labels and address the content instead?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 23, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  23. Jeffrey,

    The only thing thats absurd here is you adamantly insisting you know what Smith was thinking, especially when there is clear evidence, which you admit to yourself, that you have no idea what he was thinking (e.g., the sun being eternal). But, never mind the evidence, full steam ahead! And do brush up on the KFD, will you? Youre obviously grossly ignorant of its textual history when you say there is no need to harmonize anything.

    I am tired of this nonsense, and of you. Please dont reply to anything I post anywhere in the bloggernacle anymore. Please just ignore me and anything I write. I’ll extend you the same courtesy. Thanks, and have a nice life.

    Comment by Kurt — August 23, 2005 @ 3:43 pm

  24. At least do me the favor of explaining what the ring analogy and the uncreated spirits really means. I promise that I won’t reply to it, but I think you do everybody a great disservice by not giving us that.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — August 23, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  25. For anyone who really is interested in understanding what Smith was saying in the KFD, here is what to do:

    1) Download the best amalgamated version of the discourse from:


    2) Download a review of the historical context from:


    3) Pick up a decent sized dictionary and look up the word “principle” and especially note the definition pertaining to Chemistry, which will say something like this:

    One of the elements that compose a substance, especially one that gives some special quality or effect.

    4) Read the article on the history.

    5) Carefully read the new amalgamation, especially note the text in italics is represented solely by the Woodruff account.

    6) Think.

    Comment by Kurt — August 24, 2005 @ 8:31 am

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